Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 September 2017
The equitable sharing of benefits from natural resources is a key target of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Trade in its native species is one way in which a country can potentially benefit from its natural resources, and even small-scale traders can now access global markets online. However, little is known about the extent of benefit sharing for many products, and the extent to which the appropriate processes and permits are being used. We surveyed online trade in a lucrative and widely sold product in Southeast Asia (horticultural orchids) to assess the extent of access and benefit sharing. In total, 20.8% (n = 1120) of orchid species from the region were being sold. Although seven out of ten countries were trading, five had very little or no trade in their native species, and the majority of recently described endemic species being traded from non-range states had no reported Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora exports from their country of origin. We suggest that addressing access and benefit-sharing gaps requires wider recognition of the problem, coupled with capacity building in the countries currently benefitting least: Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. The priority should be to increase botanical capacity and enable these countries to better control the commercialization and trade of their native species.